Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Trentemøller - Lost


To glimpse briefly at the names to [Anders] Trentemøller's three-strong discography, reads almost like parts to an escapist trilogy of novels whereby something initially crious and inviting, goes awrily wrong. For the thirty-eight year old Dane, the theme of travel and discovery seems to pop up rather tentively in his music. It was on his 2006 debut The Last Resort that brought a magnetizining, and vastly reimagined take on techno conjuring far more than some vacational parting from normality. As its name suggested, it felt like another pivotal moment where electronic music rediscovered something in itself; in Techno's case, a more secluded, crisper, natural...and thus, minimized approach to what originally stood as some glitzy, industrial-inspired adventure over the past couple of decades. 2010 may have put Trentemøller on a precaious knife's edge with electronic listeners - Into The Great Wide Yonder, again painting an accurate picture, finding the Dane abandoning absoloute beats and sonic texturess for a more sleek and stylish exproduction of extravagant synth pop-like ballads and dancefloor-favoured disco tones alike. While this painted Techno in a different, and intriguing light, from my perspective I felt it sacrificed most (if not all) of the charm and depth that made his debut one of Minimal Techno's essential listens. Thus, another attention-grabbing electronic sub-genre has landed itself a founding,, development and establishment across the European continent in the seven years Trentemøller's name has been exchanged across the cyber World.

But despite producers old and new including Christian Löffler, Recondite, Shed & Pantha Du Prince maintaining Germany's dominance as a Techno hotspot, Lost - Trentemøller's third LP in a seven year-career - finds him going against the genre's jurisdiction as well as suprisingly challenging his legion of fans; the producer combining the two oppositions of sound into a record hoping to sport the best of both Worlds. Thus, where his past love for the open flair of 80's post-punk and more commercial varieties of music is well-known, it's no surprise that that interest - both musically and directionally - finally makes its way to the front. The first track The Dream, which features collaboration from Low, finds one of the biggest departures from Techno origin, arrive with immediate presence. What's more surprising though is the lack of electronics and more-so the lack of that signatory Trentemøller 'sound' encompassing the materialism of the track. Instead, Low's Mimi Parker contributes a delicately soft harmony to a track equally delicate in its minimal string instrumentation, and worryingly, scarce with the Dane's presence on a track sonically more adept to a Low experience, than necessarily the intended former. Admittedly there are some delicate placings of atmospherics and production to which Trentemøller lays across cleanly and coherently. But aside from this, there's very little to hold back a denouncing this as a confusing way, identity-wise, to begin the album. 

Fortunately, we find ourselves moving closer to the previous realm of electronics in the following tracks. While Gravity delves into the formulaic balancing of percussion and bass alongside Trentemøller's crisp and dense frequency of beats - Jana Hunter's guest-spot working better to emphasize the chasm-wide depth and hollowness of sound the track's spacious, shadowy tone seems to point towards - Still On Fire is the first momentary return to Techno roots for the Danish musician/producer. The latter, unsurprisingly, brings a vast pushing-forward momentum to the album - audacious beats and stretching echoes of instrumentation reconfirming the presence of depth and expansion about Trentemøller's sound. However, the incorporation of conventional instrumentation - the rippling bass and chime-like / immediacy of percussion instruments - provide a much better example of the album's foray into alternate genres within the same line of production and sonic tendency Trentemøller's has worked with in previous records. 

But not all the tracks offered follow the same line and methodology in terms of production and its lasting effect. Candy Tongue, which features Marie Fisker on vocal duty, feels a lot more enclosed and stage-delivered than previous efforts - cavernous in its lack of open space as opposed to vastly stretched in space. As a result, the out-of-focus keys and drum beats ricochet and bounce off if not each other, than the removal of space with which Trentemøller has forced upon the song. And while this presents an interesting state initially - emanating a kind of lavish pop flavour, but too giving credit to the Dane's reasons for branching out - I feel the track falters in its closing stages because of such limitations; layers awkwardly colliding and cascading into each other to offer no more than shapeless noise. It's more deflating in the long-run given (on his own), the guy's interest in clean, clear production for longer composites such as Trails, gives me as a listener that very visage of space/borders as being vast yet tentatively sealed off at the same time. And here, with the track's chemically stubborn flicker of synthesizers, beats and bass grooves, the image starts to again point back to Trentemøller's balancing of old and new ideas. At its most involving, the track makes conjures a feeling of traversing an artifice of subterranean space; a sewer work perhaps, more-so a maze of pipes and machinery held under by steel, cement and solid Earth. 

So when at its most sequential, the music succeeds in challenging its listener...musically and contextually. The challenge for the artist/producer is making sure, with the case of the pop-orientated compactness of Never Stop Running is to ensure the vibes and the emotion offered by its vocalist (in this case The Drums' Jonny Pierce) match the fidelity of the music. And where the 'verse' sections' focus on upbeat, House-crisp percussion gives Pierce's vocals the breadth to work around and invite emotion and tensity to the track, I feel that the two halves don't necessarily deliver the 'pay off' that it tends to suggest. The build-up never delivers with a completive whole of lyrics and tone - not quite generating the required level of involvement or invigoration. What makes Morphine work by contrast, is Trentemøller's deliberate creeping delivery of percussion and electronics that works right across the track rather than at specific points. The sounds emanating, both in the textural quality of instruments as well as the low-frequency squirming of bass and pitches, keep the listener on-edge; constantly in-focus with the music and at the very least suspicious on where the sonic quality of the piece will lead us next. 

Importantly, this is not a result of defying vocals a chance on contributing upfront - guest or otherwise. Come Undone may be founded on its simple but spatially-drawn focus of beats and atmosphere. Alongside this, Kazu Makino's voice fits the somewhat auspicious realm of sound the track creates. And dwelling amidst the music's shifting, cold persona, her vocals generate enough warmth and human empathy to bring balance to a track that could easily have been crafted as too simplified or extracted sonically. But alone, away from the encompassing of vocals of any kind, Trentemøller's craft at combining Techno rhythms, space and outside influence presents its enthralling best on pieces like Constantinople. While it may be shorter than previous enthusiastic ventures through genre identity, the effect is no lesser compelling; arabian-styled saw synths and percussion grooves taking the listener on a vast Techno-fuelled journey across the plains in a way that both conjures a nightly visage bathed in neon, and a sonic atmosphere lavished with texture and colour. And to contrast, the thirteen-minute, split-by-silence of Hazed perfectly recaptures Trentemøller's strive for adventure and sequence while at the same time dabbling in a variance of instrumentation - the hypnotic interplay of beats, synthesizers, bass, electric guitar and layered production creating a closing statement that's both a comfortably rhythmic listen, and a challenging experience of ambience and drone, at the same time.

Though while the opportunist relapses into challenging Techno gladly elevates Lost from off its developmental foundry, I suspect it won't be enough to deter listeners from the obviousness of its substantial focus on guest features and alteration in pop suffixed music. While these efforts do manage to translate with at the very least some coherent production and engineering behind them, the drawbacks to the Danish producer's 'daring' entry in his discography, is that the relation between his own sound and the sound with which he references, does't quite translate with enough of an impact that his debut delivered so effectively on. While past collab-heavy records such as Groove Armada's 2010 Black Light or even [Gorillaz's] Plastic Beach managed to fit its jigsaw'd vocal contributions with musical styling, Trentemøller's equivalence doesn't quite match said albums' heights of vocal and musical prowess. A respectable effort yes, but not one that brings with it reason to celebrate or leave overjoyous post-listen. The question now is whether or not Anders is confident or even conscious enough to keep to working with his more personal tastes, or instead revert to the very thing that struck an interest with so many outsiders on debut. Whatever the outcome is, what comes next feels like it's going to be one of absolute success...or outright failure.
~Jordan

7.0

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